“Let me not, I pray you, accept any man's person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man. 22) For I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my maker would soon take me away.” (Job 32:21-22)
I. The reason for this study.
1. Flattery is condemned in the scripture (Pro 26:28; Pro 29:5)
2. It is clear from Job 32:21-22 that it is wrong to give someone a flattering title.
3. Some have concluded from this that it is wrong to call a pastor "Pastor So-and-so" because to do so would be to give him a flattering title.
4. It is also argued that we never read in the Bible where men of God were addressed by titles such as "Pastor....", "Elder.....", "Bishop.....", etc.
A. To determine if this assertion is true, we must first define the terms and see if the above mentioned titles fit the bill.
B. Secondly we must determine if the lack of use of these titles means that the scripture prohibits the usage of them.
II. Why do we care?
1. As followers of Jesus Christ, we Christians should do things by the book.
A. God commands men to worship Him in truth (Joh 4:24), and He seeketh such who do it (Joh 4:23).
B. God imposes sever judgments upon his children when they do not keep his religion after the due order (2Sa 6:6-7 c/w 1Ch 15:13; 1Co 11:29-30)
2. Have you ever stopped to consider why we do things the way we do? (Hag 1:5,7).
3. Since the Bible gives us no example of a church calling its pastor "Pastor So-and-so", why do we do it?
4. We should esteem God's precepts above all things (Psa 119:128).
5. We should pray that God will search our hearts and prove us (Psa 119:133; Psa 138:23-24).
6. We should acknowledge that God's ways are higher than our ways (Isa 55:8-9).
7. We should want to call our pastor what God says we should call our pastor.
III. Defining the terms.
Flattering – ppl.a. 1. a. Of a person, his actions, utterances, etc.: That flatters or tries to please by praise, generally insincere; adulatory.
Flatter – v. 1. a. intr. Of an animal, bird, etc.: To show delight or fondness (by wagging the tail, making a caressing sound, etc.).
2. To try to please or win the favour of (a person) by obsequious speech or conduct; to court, fawn upon.
3. To praise or compliment unduly or insincerely.
Adulatory – a. Of or belonging to an adulator; full of adulation; servilely or fulsomely flattering.
Adulation - Servile flattery or homage; exaggerated and hypocritical praise to which the bestower consciously stoops.
1. Substituting the definition, we can see that a flattering title is a title which gives insincere, exaggerated, and hypocritical praise to the person whose name it has been attached.
2. This is the type of title that the Word of God condemns.
3. The question is now, are titles such as pastor, elder, bishop, etc. insincere, exaggerated, or hypocritical?
A. No, these titles are certainly none of those things; they are simply the names which the Bible uses for the office of the overseer of a church (Eph 4:11; Tit 1:5-7).
B. Giving a pastor the title of "Pastor...." is simply calling him what he is.
IV. Digging deeper.
1. Notice that Elihu was speaking generally and not specifically in a religious context (Job 32:21-22).
2. That being the case, consider some Biblical examples of men in the secular realm who were given titles much more "flattering" than pastor, elder, bishop, etc.:
A. Paul addressed Agrippa as "King Agrippa" (Act 26:27).
i. Was this a "flattering title"? No, we find no censure in the Bible for it.
ii. If it was, Paul could have called him "Agrippa, King" instead.
B. To up the ante, Paul addressed Festus as "most noble Festus" (Act 26:25).
Noble - adj. 1. a. Illustrious or distinguished by position, character, or exploits.
Illustrious - 1. Lighted up, having lustre or brilliancy; luminous, shining, bright, lustrous.
i. This would seem to be a much more "flattering title" than that of Pastor, and yet Paul was never condemned for using it.
ii. This title was even given to a man who was not all that noble (Act 26:24).
C. Luke, writing under the inspiration of God, addressed Theophilus as "most excellent Theophilus" (Luk 1:3).
Most - adj. 1. Greatest, in various applications. b. with reference to amount or degree. (a) As superlative of comparison: Greatest in degree or extent, often passing into ‘utmost’, ‘chief’, occas. used predicatively. (b) As intensive superlative: Very great.
Excellent - adj. 1. Of a person or thing: That excels or surpasses in any respect; preëminent, superior, supreme. Of qualities: Existing in a greater, or an exceptionally great, degree.
i. Was God giving Theophilus a "flattering title" as He was writing by the hand of Luke? God forbid.
ii. Luke was not merely giving Theophilus a title that described his office, but was giving him a title of exaltation, and yet was not flattering him.
D. In these three examples, Paul and Luke were not giving a title that was insincere, exaggerated, or hypocritical, so therefore these titles were not flattering.
3. The Bible also gives examples of titles given to men in a religious or spiritual connotation.
A. Church members are often referred to as brothers and sisters (1Co 5:11; Jam 2:15).
B. The apostle Paul was specifically called "brother Saul" by Ananias (Act 9:17).
i. Addressing a brother as “Brother So-and-So” would be just as much giving a “flattering title” as would be addressing a pastor as “Pastor So-and-So”.
ii. Like a pastor, a person that is a brother is in a special position that not all men are in and therefore is held to a higher standard than other men (1Co 5:11).
iii. A person is a brother because God fitted him to be one; likewise a man is a pastor because God fitted him to be one.
iv. Therefore calling a pastor “Pastor So-and-So” is fundamentally no different than calling a brother “Brother So-and-So”.
v. Calling a pastor “Pastor So-and-So” and a brother “Brother So-and-So” is not giving them flattering titles, (insincere, exaggerated, or hypocritical praise) it is simply calling them what they are.
C. Similarly, Paul called Timothy "son Timothy" (1Ti 1:18).
i. Why would Paul give such a "flattering title" to Timothy? Because he was simply calling him what he was: "my own son in the faith" (1Ti 1:2).
ii. The title "son" denotes a special position which a man is given when he is ordained to the ministry by his father in the faith.
iii. It would have been no more of a "flattering title" for Paul to call Timothy "son Timothy" than it would have been for him to call him "Pastor Timothy" or "Elder Timothy" because all three of those titles described the office or position that Timothy held.
4. Now that we know what are not considered flattering titles, let's look at titles that would be considered flattering.
A. Calling a pastor "Father....." in the sense that the Catholics do would be giving him a flattering title because it is a title that exaggerates his office and furthermore is condemned in scripture (Mat 23:9).
B. Calling the pope "Holy Father" likewise is a flattering and blasphemous title which exaggerates his office to that which only God holds and is a title that only God is called by (Joh 17:11).
C. Calling your pastor "The most magnificent, splendid, perfect, and majestic Pastor So-and-So" would be a flattering title.
D. A more common example would be calling your pastor "Reverend", which is a description of God's name, not a pastor's (Psa 111:9).
E. Even calling your pastor "Pastor....." if you do not in your heart esteem him as your overseer who has the rule over you would be giving him a flattering title because, to you, it would be an insincere, exaggerated, and hypocritical title.